Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?
The people that PEP serves (the disabled, the poor, and the homeless) are among the most needy in our society, and are frequently seen as an undesirable population for volunteers to work with. I became aware of the organization when I went through the GBC Leadership Program in 2001; I met the CEO of PEP, Dale Meyer, who was one of my classmates. I was not involved with a nonprofit at the time (and wanted to be), and the mission of the organization spoke to me.
Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?
The clients of PEP include a large and underserved community within Baltimore and the surrounding suburbs. Its clients include the homeless, who are frequently suffering from mental illness and often struggling with one or more complicating factors (such as AIDS, alcoholism, or drug addiction). PEP supports those individuals through its “ACT” teams who go into the homeless community to provide on- site services. It also provides supported housing to individuals with psychiatric disorders, and housing to youth who are aging out of foster care. PEP also serves members of the deaf community who are mentally ill. It’s a wide variety of clients. PEP is one of the largest owners of non-profit housing in the City of Baltimore. It arose out of a time, about thirty years ago, when the protocols at mental institutions were being changed so that many individuals were being released into the streets, and forced into homelessness. PEP was initially founded to provide support to that community.
What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?
My favorite memory has probably been when clients of PEP have attended our board meetings to talk about how their lives have been changed by PEP. The board does the easy work – it’s the staff who are out in the field working with the community it serves who perform, on a daily basis, extremely challenging work under the most difficult of circumstances. The board supports PEP’s staff, particularly its senior staff, by acting as a sounding board and advisor. PEP’s staff needs the support and advice we are able to provide, but the real heroes are the ones in the trenches who are directly helping those who need it most.
If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?
PEP, like most non-profits, always need more funds. And I wish there was more housing available for PEP to provide for clients, because there is never enough.